What a Difference a Few Years Makes

On May 30, 2008, I came out to my mother.

It was an extremely painful day, and the days and weeks that followed (not to mention the 2-3 years that led up to it) were almost unbearable. The details of this struggle are irrelevant to this current post, but I am able and willing to share them if anyone feels that hearing my own “It Gets Better” story… please let me know and that will be another post. But for now, suffice it to say that I struggled a lot internally and externally through almost constant fights with my mother.

On June 4, 2008, just a few short days after finally coming out, I performed at my choir’s “Broadway Night.” The song I chose to sing was entitled “Who Will Love Me As I Am,” and it was definitely autobiographical at that moment in my life. I felt unloved and unwanted. I thought of myself as an outcast, and I believed that I was a disappointment.

Now, I look back on this pivotal moment in my life, and I am filled with nothing but pride. The video of my performance is posted below. If you watch me, my body language screams insecurity. At 2:23, my voice shakes. It is especially obvious at that moment in the clip how uncomfortable I felt in my own skin.

But when I look watch that clip today, I see something more than fear. I see courage. Yes, my fear is palpable. But I got up there and sang anyways. I did what I thought I could not do. It may seem like a small act, but standing on that stage singing those words with my parents in the audience was one of the hardest things I have ever done. And I have never once regretted it.

No matter how painful that was, I am, in the end, grateful. I would not be the person I am today without that time in my life.

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Finding Love Again

Growing up, we’re told all about how family is your heart… family is always there for you… family will always love you no matter what.

Well, this isn’t the case with everyone.

I have had a very long, twisted and often painful relationship with my family in the past seven or so years. Honestly, I have spent much of the last couple of years running away, both physically and mentally. I thought if I just separated myself from the people who caused me pain, I could move forward. It is obvious to me now that this is the complete opposite is true: The only way to move forward to confront your pain.

But let me save that for another post. That topic deserves about 3 posts minimum just for that, haha. Today, I’m going to tell you about the biggest shock I’ve had since I’ve arrived here in Spain:  I’m homesick.

I miss San Diego. I miss my friends. I miss familiarity. I miss my pets… but I also miss my family. A lot.

This past Monday, I was very sick. I stayed up all night throwing up. Of course, this made me want the comfort and familiarity of home. I Skyped with my mother the following day and just broke down crying while talking to her. I told her that it was because I wasn’t feeling well and I wanted my own bed and some matzo ball soup. While this was true, the tears were coming from someplace else.

I finally acknowledged, in this physically and emotionally weakened space, how much my mother loves me and how much I love her. Of course, in a literal sense, I knew this already. It’s just something that is hard to fully grasp when that relationship has been strained for so long.

So yes, I’m homesick. Yes, these emotions are stirring up some painful memories. But I’m glad. If nothing else, the distance of studying abroad has made me closer to my family at home. I’ve rediscovered this love, and I am so glad. ❤

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Guilt

Having grown up as the only grandchild on my mom’s very stereotypically Jewish side of the family, I know all about guilt. I know all about high expectations, at first imposed by others and later self-imposed. And, of course, I know a lot about disappointment… because, after all, life never turns out exactly as you expected.

I am not a fan of these emotions, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Of course, guilt has its place. It is a helpful reminder of morality and helps you to learn from your mistakes. However, oftentimes I let guilt control me. It is at this point when guilt becomes a negative force, causing you to become swallowed up by past mistakes rather than helping you grow from them.

Next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by guilt, take a step back. Remember that every action taken in the past has been part of the foundation of the present moment. If you went back and changed whatever actions/thoughts/words/whatever it is you are feeling guilty about, the present would be forever changed.

Let’s look at my current feelings of guilt. I have recently been looking back at my childhood, and I have realized that I was not the best of friends to someone I love dearly. Because I was dealing with a lot of internal stuff, I never bothered to look outside of myself and see that I could have easily been hurting someone I love more than words can express.

If I went back in time and changed this behavior, some things in the present may be changed for the better. For example, perhaps this friend would feel a stronger sense of independence and self-control if I hadn’t been such a control freak as a child. At the same time, I would not have fixed my own issues and I would not be able to be a source of support for this same friend as she goes through struggles today.

After all, even if my feelings of guilt convince me that I am, on some level, responsible for what is happening, I am not solely responsible. Even if I had acted in a way that I approve of in hindset, my friend would still have struggles. It is not my fault. Since I have fought my demons, albeit unfortunately at the expense of those around me at the end, I am now able to help others fight theirs. If I changed the past, this would not be the case.

 

How do you ward off feelings of guilt? Perhaps even more important – how do you prevent them? Share below!

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Don’t Steal My Mojo!

This post is partially inspired by Chalene Johnson’s “Mojo Monster” lecture at Camp Do More 2011 and parrtially inspired by a conversation I had wth a couple of friends yesterday about circumstances that they are in at this point in their lives.

 

We’ve all been there at one time or another. You’re in a great mood. All is going well. Nothing can bring you down… until you run into that one friend. She is the one who can find something to complain about in any situation. No matter what, she can find a way to focus on the negative. She takes and takes all the positivity from everyone around her, and it is never enough. 

She is a Mojo Monster.

I may sound very harsh when describing this friend, but htat is because I know her all too well. I used to be queen of the Mojo Monsters. I thought that dumping my issues on everyone around me would make me closer to people, because they would pity me and give me affection. That’s the only way I knew how to receive affection. In fact, as all of you non-Mojo Monsters can predict in a heartbeat, this behavior of mine only pushed people further away.

Nowadays, I sometimes find myself on the other end of this scenario. Now that I’ve discovered my mojo and am passionate about helping others find theirs, I sometimes find myself falling victim to the mojo monsters in my life.

How do you break away… but only partially? As I said in my last post, I am extremely passionate about being a source of light and suport for others. So how do we learn to disengage while still being a supportive figure in the lives of those struggling around us?

I think it all comes down to our level of participation and, more importantly, the type of participation. For instance, I can listen when things are terrible in your life, but I can’t be a dumping ground for every misstep and every painful moment you experience. I can offer support and love, but I can’t tell you what to do. The only advice that I am willing to offer is related to self-preservation and inner strength. I will very rarely give advice – solicited or no – for physical, outward actions. I personally feel that this creates too strong of a sense of obligation and responsibility in someone else’s world. In the end, it is their burden to bear and the consequences are the ones that they reap themselves.

Now these are some of my self-imposed restrictions on helping others. Maybe the guidelines are different for you. I personally am very sensitive to the feelings of guilt, so the latter rule that I outlined is essential for me in not feeling too attached to the situation. Perhaps for you, this doesn’t apply as much. Or perhaps for the former suggestion, you are strong enough to listen to every woe and worry. That is wonderful. These are just guidelines. Figure out what rules work for you — when those Mojo Monsters are pushing it too far. Develop methods to break away while still assuring them that you are in their lives and care for them.

 

People can be Mojo Monsters just by keeping you from that which makes you truly happy. They don’t deserve your time if they detract from what makes you so special.

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You Come First

I want to write this post as an explanation for my absence.

For those of you who know me, it probably comes as a huge shock that I’m procrastinating and not following through with this blog. Emily? Not on top of things? Not doing everything a day early? What?

Well, really, it comes down to my priorities. This blog is very important to me. I feel as though I have a lot to say in regards to personal development, and I desperately want to share it with you all. However, I am currently abroad, studying a new language and pushing myself to my intellectual and emotional limits in many ways.

Now Chalene Johnson, a woman I admire in so many ways, is very adament about the importance of establishing your priorities and making sure all of your goals and actions are aligned with your priorities. If not, you’re going down the wrong path.

On the train ride to Córdoba, Spain, after traveling for a month before my study program, I thought long and hard about my priorities and wrote them out in a concrete way. I am going to share them with you right now:

  1. BE TRUE TO MYSELF and love myself exactly as I am.
  2. Always learn. Always grow.
  3. Help others be the best that they can be
  4. Be a support/light for others who are suffering.
I share these priorities with you to give you an explanation as to why I have been relatively absent here on this blog lately. Right now, I’m in a setting where I have the opportunity to learn so much… not only about a new language, new culture, new history… but also about aspects of myself that I didn’t know existed.
You see, although I am extremely passionate about helping others, I come first. And you should too! Never lose yourself in others for whatever reason.
Thus, right now, I am spending a lot of time working on priorities one and two, and unfortunately my blog is getting slightly neglected. But as you can see from my priorities list, I want to share with you the various personal development revelations that I’m coming across on this journey. They just may be sparse right now… and when I come home in December, I’ll just explode with a million. Don’t give up me just yet! 🙂

¿Por Qué No?

That’s my new favorite saying here in España. ¿Por qué no? It translates to “Why not?” and I’ve decided that’s my motto while here in Córdoba. I am going to say yes to everything (unless it is dangerous, of course!). I am going to experience, I am going to try new things, and I am going to live life to the fullest.

Basically, I interpret “¿Por qué no?” to mean that if you can’t think of a valid reason not to do something, do it.

And if you’re letting fear, doubt, or anything else along those lines give you excuses not to participate in an activity that truly has no negative side effects besides initial discomfort – stop listening to them! You only have one life, so live it up!

 

Look, I don’t want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you’re alive you’ve got to flap your arms and legs, you’ve got to jump around a lot, for life is the very opposite of death, and therefore you must at very least think noisy and colorfully, or you’re not alive.
– Mel Brooks

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Always Learning

Yo sé que no escribí mucho este semana pasada… lo siento mucho. Estudiaba mucho español y requiere mucho tiempo y mucha esfuerza.

Translation: I know that I didn’t write much this past week… I’m very sorry. I was studying a lot of Spanish, and it requires a lot of time and effort.

Well, that’s what I’m going to write to you about today. What I’m doing right now – studying a foreign language that I’m not very comfortable with in a foreign country with a culture that I don’t know very well. It’s all different, and I am out of my comfort zone in about every way.

But that’s how we learn.

We push ourselves into new situations, into scary territory. We must be uncomfortable in order to improve. So, here I am. Immersed in a life and language completely different than my own. Pushing myself past my self-imposed limits.

After all, how else can I grow?

 

So how are you pushing yourself to continue learning and to do more? Share in the comments below.